Life in Kruger

Submitted by Meg Deming on the 2024 Winter SOCI program in South Africa

The only word I can use to describe our visit to Kruger Park is surreal. Luckily for us, we had two incredibly knowledgeable guides who took us on our game drives during the four days we were in Kruger. Almost immediately upon arrival we were taken on one such drive were we saw groups of elephants and an amazing view of the surrounding mountain ranges. The diverse collection of trees in the area was also a sight to behold, with each species seeming to have their own unique story and purpose. 

Our first drive was only a preview of what we were about to see in the coming days. On day two we saw elephants, water buffalo, and a duo of lions blocking one of the many dirt roads. These animals make up three of the park’s Big Five, and I look forward to seeing the remaining two, leopard and rhino, during future visit. Still, seeing any of the Big Five was an absolutely incredible experience and being so close to such big animals almost felt too good to be true.

Later that same afternoon, we were able to ride some ATVs down a section of the dirt paths. While on one of the larger roads, we drove through a group of about twenty giraffe, some zebra, and countless impala. Seeing so many beautiful animals up close was indescribable. Despite the loud roar of a dozen ATVs, the animals continued to graze as we drove past them as if we were not even there. I can confidently say that I have never felt so immersed in nature and would highly recommend the experience to anyone who gets the opportunity. 

On our third day, our guide Sidney followed lion tracks for very many miles hoping to see some in the dirt path. Being in the front row of that particular excursion, I got the privilege of asking him many questions. I learned that lions typically stay in their den during the day, but emerge into the dirt paths later in the afternoon before going on the hunt. Our search for the lions during the first half of our drive was unsuccessful, but during the second half a radio message came in saying that the pride of thirteen lions had emerged and was traveling one of the dirt paths. We were able to quickly locate the lions, and just in time. We watched on as three adult lions and ten cubs walked down the dirt path and headed into the bush for their late afternoon meal. 

As interesting as it is to read and write about the South African bush, it is nothing compared to experiencing it for yourself. It is difficult to convey the sense of freedom and connection with nature that one feels while they are in Kruger National Park. There were many instances during our game drives that the group was too stunned to speak. I fully intend on making my way back to Kruger in my lifetime to relive the experience I had during this portion of our study abroad trip. (Submitted on January 23, 2024)

A Week In Cape Town

Although the entirety of my trip to South Africa was amazing, our final week in Cape Town truly blew me away with its scenery and atmosphere. As soon as we arrived we could see an absolutely stunning view of Table Mountain, one of Cape Town’s most famous landmarks. It was so refreshing to see the ocean from where we were staying, and nightly walks to watch the sunset became our norm.

There are so many different sights to see in and around Cape Town, but my favorites would have to be the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and the Clifton Beaches. The penguins we saw were absolutely adorable and there were so many in such a small area! Unfortunately, we couldn’t have a beach day with the penguins, but Clifton Beach more than made up for it. Behind us, there was a view of Lions Head, a neighbor to Table Mountain, and in front of us was an ocean filled with boats and large rocks that you could swim out to. There were also paddleboards to rent, and while chatting on a paddleboard my friend and I had a school of dolphins swim under us. That felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it really sums up the incredible experiences that are to be had in Cape Town. 

On one of our free mornings, a friend and I decided we wanted to hike Lions Head because how hard can it be? It’s much smaller than Table Mountain. The answer is very hard. About 45 minutes in it started to feel like less of a hike and more like scaling a mountain. The view at the end made all of that hard work worth it though, and next time I’m in Cape Town I’m willing to try and climb Table Mountain, but I may need to get some practice in first. 

The best activity I did while there had to have been paragliding over Cape Town. The views are incredible on the ground, but they’re even better from up above. I was able to see everything South of Table Mountain. Off in the distance, you could see Robben Island, an island once used as a prison. Nelson Mandela was held there as a political prisoner for much of his life. Below me, I could see the waterfront and the port as well as buildings that spanned for miles. Behind me, I could see an incredible view of Table Mountain just behind the hill we had used for takeoff. 

Cape Town is an absolutely gorgeous beachside city with sightseeing and adventure that appeals to all. I have traveled to some pretty incredible places, but Cape Town definitely takes the cake. It is so hard to articulate just how beautiful of a city it is, so I would highly recommend that people go and see it for themselves. It truly was the trip of a lifetime. (Submitted on February 5, 2024)